Tag Archives: vegetarian

Sweet Potato Pasta bake

Sweet Potato Pasta Bake (6695)Earlier this year a very dear friend of mine stayed with us for a few days. She travelled to London everyday. By the time she arrived back it would have already been late in the evening, tired as one would expect. After a day’s work there’s nothing better than a warm meal, especially when it’s rainy and cold I must add. J loves a good pasta bake too so I made this for all of us. It makes for a light meal, perfect if you’re having a late supper. Just don’t serve a crumble for dessert! Or please do. I’m hungry!

Sweet Potato Pasta Bake (6696)

You might think that for a little pasta bake my method has quite a lot of faff, but I really don’t mind it. And you know how impatient I can get. I will tell you though that it also works if you choose not to cook the onions and sweet potatoes beforehand. I have tried this too when I was in a bit of a hurry. Just prolong the baking time to around 25 to 30 minutes. Then add the greens and Gorgonzola just before serving. I might give today’s pizza a miss and cook this instead. It is delicious.

Serves 3-4

  • 300g wholemeal fusilli (or penne)
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 small dry sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (and more as needed to top things off)
  • pinch salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • some greens to serve (I used rucola)
  • Gorgonzola, to serve

Line a roasting tin with parchment paper or kitchen foil, or grease it with a little olive oil. Set aside.

Boil the sweet potatoes for a few minutes, but don’t cook them through. Drain and put them in a large mixing bowl. If you decide to use the onions sweat them with a little olive oil in a shallow pan over medium heat, till they turn opaque and golden brown. Tip these in the bowl with the sweet potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, preferably leave them al dente, or slightly undercooked. Place this in the same bowl with the cooked sweet potatoes. Add the sage, thyme, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, mix the whole lot and tip this mixture into your prepared roasting tin.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and bake for not more than 15 minutes.

When the pasta is out of the oven, add the rucola and serve with a few cubes of Gorgonzola on each individual serving.

Enjoy!

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Easy Bite

Grilled Sourdough with Tomatoes and Dolcelatte (7485)

August is a quiet time, and I probably won’t be posting often in the coming weeks. (Thank you J for posting this for me.) This is a very quick idea for a bruschetta with Dolcelatte. This Italian cheese has a much more delicate taste than other blue cheeses, and is deliciously sweet. I’m a huge fan on strong blues, but sometimes you just need something milder. This is my take on the classic grilled cheese on toast. All you need is sourdough bread, sliced tomatoes (the beefier the better), dolcelatte, spring onions, olive oil and pepper. Enjoy!

Rob x

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta and Chilli

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta from Takes 5 (7556)Before I write anything else I have this to say: to all those working in bakeries and kitchens, hats off to you! You are my heroes! Now, I would be lying if I told you we didn’t bake anything in the last two weeks (I baked once in the past 14 days)! I did promise myself not to, until it cools down a bit. I kinda like this weather though (I hate the heat – there I said it, but please don’t hate *me*) because my fridge is stocked with as many fruit and veggies as it can hold. And after running errands all morning I bought a seasoned roast chicken because I just couldn’t face the stove. I have plenty of leftovers and will make some salad wraps for dinner later today. Nice and easy. But…

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7557)The reality is I cannot avoid cooking a hot meal for too long and I don’t think I can handle eating cold salads everyday for however long this heatwave is going to last. So I came across this recipe which I really really like: something new from Takes 5 by James Tanner. It’s a book I have liked ever since it was published three years ago I believe, well worth the money. I have cooked from it time and time again, and some of the recipes have become part of my off-the-cuff list of dishes. Not to mention what a lovely person James is: apart from being a great chef (we all know that), his heart is in the right place. James’ new book is finally out now, and here at C&T we are very happy about it. Until our copy arrives and we will wait eagerly by the door just in case the doorbell is not working properly and we miss it, we made this recipe with minor changes* which we had with grilled steak.

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7547)Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7548)

  • 4 leeks, washed and cut into 1cm pieces* (James uses baby leeks)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar*
  • 3 tablespoons golden caster sugar*
  • 450ml water
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 200g ricotta
  • pinch of salt*
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil*

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7550)Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7551)

In a large pan, pour in the vinegar, sugar and water. Bring to the boil and add the chopped leeks. Bring to the boil once more, then cover the pan and simmer for around 10 minutes, or until the leeks turn soft. Remove the leeks from the pan and drain (you don’t need the liquid).

Turn the grill on to high. Using the sharpest knife you have (taking care it doesn’t go on your fingers) cut the already chopped pieces of leeks in half and place them on a baking tray or tin. Top them with the dried chilli and chunks of ricotta. Grill for 5 minutes until the ricotta turns a little golden.

Sweet and Sour Leeks with Ricotta (7558)

I will try this with some glazed ham, when the weather’s cooler. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Adapted from Takes 5 by James Tanner, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2010.)

Refried Beans

Mexican-Dinner-(6424)

This is a very easy recipe I make whenever I plan a Mexican-inspired supper. It takes minutes to prepare from start to finish and for me it’s well worth it. I must confess I prefer something like a guacamole than mashed up beans and was quite averse to it when I first tasted it. (Reason behind this: kidney beans are not one of my favourite things!) However I grew to like it; it complements the freshness of guacamole in texture and taste. And it’s pantry-friendly. You don’t really need to go out and buy any special ingredients for this. You might have all the ingredients right now. The traditional recipe calls for pinto beans but I use kidney beans instead, just because they are easier to find. All you need are:

  • 1 x 400g can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small shallot
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (you might need a little bit more as the beans cook)
  • salt (preferably coarse and crushed) and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh coriander (or parsley), to sprinkle over the beans in their serving bowl
  1. Set aside around a third of the kidney beans and in a bowl mash the rest with a fork. Don’t fuss around with this. A rough mash is more than enough.
  2. Place a pan over the heat and when it’s hot enough add the olive oil and the shallot. (If you don’t have shallots or onions, you could even use a couple of spring onions. Just add them straight with the garlic to avoid any burning.*) Let the shallot cook until it turns a light golden colour.
  3. Add the garlic (if you didn’t add it before*) and the spices.
  4. Give everything a good stir and immediately add the mashed kidney beans and half the amount of stock. Let the mixture thicken slightly for around five minutes, and tip in the unmashed beans. Loosen the mixture now by adding the remaining stock slowly, and just enough for the beans to loosen but still stay somewhat thick.** This might take up to two to three minutes.
  5. Season with the salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and add more if necessary.
  6. Place the beans in a serving bowl and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Before I go I must apologise for the lack of a proper photo for this, but in the so-called chaos of my kitchen I totally forgot to take a close-up picture of the finished thing! I hope you can see it clearer in the picture!** Also, don’t let the number of steps put you down. It’s one of the easiest recipes out there. Enjoy!

Rob x

Being good: Lentil Soup

Lentil-Soup-(5993)

There’s no denying it: I love food and spending time in the kitchen, but sometimes there is a limit, even for me. I don’t feel guilty about it – I used to but not anymore. J and I eat well throughout the week. Dinner prep is easy and quick most of the time anyway but I try to make every meal as varied as possible. Again, sometimes within limits, because you cannot be superwoman everyday. If you are, I applaud you. Really. No sarcasm here.

Times like these call for easy solutions, especially when I’m eating alone. I find that there’s no joy in that but it happens sometimes when J is abroad for work. He found a recipe by Alton Brown for lentil soup a few years back and we come back to it repeatedly, changing the ingredients according what we have in the fridge at the time. You know that I love a good steak, but there’s plenty of room for hearty soups in my life as I’m sure there is in yours. It might not be attractive, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good; and comforting.

I remember one day, quite a few years back (I think I must have been 6 or 7 years old), when my mum and I went over to my grandma’s house. My nan had a large blue kitchen with a huge table in the middle. I opened the pantry and found two packets of small round pasta. I poured some water in a pan, emptied the packets of pasta into the water and swirled it around with a wooden spoon. I had no idea how to switch on the hob (thank goodness for that), so I left the pasta just there, imagining it was cooking. By the end of the afternoon this concoction was a gloopy mess; it would not magically turn into pasta soup obviously, but it was my creation and I felt so proud of it, until my nan told me off.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and this memory has stuck with me ever since. Every time I make an easy soup I am transported back in time to that sunny kitchen. For the life of me I cannot copy and paste the link onto this website so I’m giving the recipe here. It’s just a guide. What I don’t suggest though is adding potatoes. You will end up with cement. Take it from me: been there, done that and I won’t do it again!

Don’t be intimidated by the last ingredient. You can use a number of spices instead. I go for ground cardamom, ground ginger or even sumac. You need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 450g red lentils
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (you can use mixed spice or cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom, ground ginger or sumac (Alton suggests ground grains of paradise but stick to my suggestions if you don’t have it.)

All you need to do is sweat the onions, carrot, celery and salt into a large pot. (You need the salt to soften the veggies.) Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock and spices. Stir to combine the ingredients. Turn the heat up till everything comes up to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. If you want to, blend everything with a stick blender. (I would invest in one of these.) Taste and add some more seasoning if required. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Rob x

Roast veggies

Baked-Summer-Vegatables-(5953)

I have to admit I do find it hard sometimes to come up with good veggie dishes. Not out of any lack of love for them; I enjoy shopping at the market stall and often buy more than I need. Typical example: I bought four lovely pomegranates around three weeks ago, just because I didn’t have them in ages. Also they bring such lovely childhood memories of my grandpa that I couldn’t help myself. After five days staring at me from the bowl, the beauties were begging me to eat them. Instead I painstakingly pulled all the seeds out and placed them in a container in the fridge. Did I eat them? No. I had to throw them all away. I won’t tell you the reason why. Shame on me and what a waste! End of confession.

I love roasting things though…food I mean. Roasting a chicken is easy; doing the same with vegetables is even easier and the cooking time is much shorter. The first few times I did this I made the mistake of cutting the veggies into smallish chunks. The result was a big veggie mush. Not nice.

What I do now is this. I cut them into larger pieces, season them with pepper and just a little bit of salt (not too much because I don’t want them to lose too much of their water), dried thyme or any herb of your choice really and plenty of olive oil (not extra virgin though), pop them in the oven for around 30 mins at 180ºC. I like a mix of mushrooms, red or white onions or both, potatoes, aubergines and courgettes. But really it can be done with anything you like. You can serve them with any meat or fish, or even alone with some rice or bread. I make sure to add some chilli then for extra heat. So easy!

Enjoy!

Rob x

Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made in Sicily”

Penne-con-Broccoli-Acciughe-e-Pinoli-(6361)

I’ve just had a day and a half, but I still want to share this with you. Two evenings ago I was watching some telly, absent mindedly browsing through the guide as one usually does after a busy day. I totally forgot that The Great British Food Revival was on, but luckily the tv was on at the right time. First up was the adorable Giorgio Locatelli, (I think he is but opinions may vary!) championing sardines. He convinced me but that’s another matter…

That reminded me that I haven’t said anything yet about Made In Sicily, which I unfortunately don’t own, but I have managed to borrow it from the library. (His other book Made in Italy has disappeared into thin air!) I loved the book instantly, notwithstanding the fact that I was feeling particularly homesick at that moment. I’m not Sicilian of course but perhaps the affinity I felt, and still feel to it, is because Malta and Sicily are neighbours…with similar histories, though I’m not the expert on that. Apart from the size (Malta is much smaller), the temperament of the people, the produce, food and the land are similar…it’s uncanny really. I have never been there, but after watching the three episodes of Sicily Unpacked (presented by Locatelli himself and Andrew Graham-Dixon) and quite a fair amount of RAI’s wonderful productions of Il Commissario Montalbano, I was forever charmed.

Like all good cookbooks, Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011 (and Made in Italy, Fourth Estate, 2008) is both a memoir and a recipe book. As always, I went to the Dolci chapter first! It was charming but strange (magnificently so) to find pignolata, cannoli, sfinci di San Giuseppe, all kinds of sorbetto, cassata, and torrone/nougat also known as the very very familiar Arabic ‘qubhayt‘. We Maltese make prinjolata, (not exactly the same thing but the word is almost the same), kannoli, sfineċ, etc. I know, right?! You’ve got to love it!

I did not try any sweets yet, and time is running out – I have got to return the book very soon. I liked the sound of Casarecce con broccoli, acciughe e broccoli…(oh jeezzz, e pinoli I) meant though (anchovies…mmm) so for one quick lunch that’s what I tried my hand at. I found some other recipes for this on the web and found out that Italians like to make this al forno. But for Locatelli’s recipe you only need the hob, which saves time, and tastes great all the same. For the pasta, I used penne, which is allowed! I changed some stuff around out of necessity (a.k.a. an understocked pantry) – shocked? Well, so am I; that rarely happens in this house! But there you go, it happens sometimes. I also took some shortcuts, taking out some of the steps because I didn’t have time to faff about. However I must tell you that the mixture was a tad dry; had I followed the method to the letter the recipe would have turned out much much better.* You have to work fast here but don’t let this deter you in any way, unless you really hate anchovies!

So I used 45g toasted breadcrumbs, a tin of anchovies in olive oil (drained because you only need the anchovies), pepper, broccoli (I had approx. 400g), 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves, half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes, 30g lightly toasted pine nuts, 20g sultanas, penne as required per person, and around 60g grated pecorino. (I used all the mixture for the sauce for 2 servings.)

In a large stock pot boil all the water you need for the pasta, but before cooking this, wash and chop the broccoli into florettes and cook them in this water until tender. When ready pull them out of the cooking water and let them drain. Now cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan heat the olive oil, add the garlic and anchovies, and stir them until the anchovies disintegrate. This will not take long so be careful not to burn them. (As I almost did!) Add the toasted breadcrumbs. (*The step that I missed is the following: Set the garlic mixture aside, then in a separate pan add these: 1 clove garlic, chopped, 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped, and it is in here that you add the broccoli. That is what you mix the pasta with. The anchovy mixture is added separately, later before serving, scattered over the pasta with the cheese.)

Add the chilli, broccoli, heat them through then add the pine nuts and sultanas.

When the pasta is cooked, tip it in the pan with the broccoli mixture and mix it well. Serve and divide the grated pecorino on each serving. Phew! Happy Weekend!

Rob x